Posts Tagged ‘International’

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A photo I took while having some tea with a friend on the Corniche (kudos Instagram)

As I wake up each “morning” around 11am-3pm (I know, I know – don’t judge) I turn my pillow over, adjust the air conditioning as necessary, and expose additional bits of skin hiding under the heavy polyester blanket to the cool air circulating throughout my bedroom. After snoozing my iPhone alarm a few times, I typically peel myself from bed, rub my eyes a few times, and meander to the bathroom like an extra in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. Sure, the lack of a proper shower/tub/curtain/door is a little peculiar; and yes, the water takes a lunar cycle to heat up; but these are things one can adjust to quite easily. Though, once I ride the elevator down to the lobby and step outside the doors to my building, I’m instantly hit with the reminder of where I am. I quickly spot the Himalayan mound of trash, the fruit vendors, the shopkeepers, the dirt, and the plethora of wild cats and dogs rummaging through all of the above. Then there’s the heat. Dear God, the heat.

I mention these things because finding the intersection of West and [Middle] East has become a recurring trend in my adventures this week. The bitter culture shock of living in Cairo has long gone, and I’m actively creating a routine of frequenting the posh coffee shops such as Cilantro and Kosta and eating at not-so-posh ful, falafel, and koshary joints. Amidst all of this I’ve encountered some new friends. Last week I mentioned my local Egyptian friend Amr who is as Egyptian as they come, and I enjoy his company precisely because of this. We talk about politics, music, religion, culture, youth, etc., and I can never get enough of learning about life according to a young Cairene. However this week I had the privilege to meet a group of Egyptians (and other international expatriates) from a fundamentally different pocket of Egyptian society. Many of these new friends are western-educated, speak English as well as (if not better than) me, and enjoy discussing the various sadistic plots from the past season of Game of Thrones (spoiler alert: they all die). In the spirit of Egyptian hospitality, I was invited to join them for a delightful weekend on the north Mediterranean coast in a city called El Alamein. As I sipped a Mango smoothie and engaged in a lively debate regarding whether or not I thought the local beach was the best beach I’d ever been to (which it was NOT, I should say. See: Oahu, Maui, San Diego), I had to keep reminding myself that this little resort town and the people therein were as much a part of Egypt as the bustling streets and niqab-wearing women in Cairo. Though it was a weekend largely devoid of practicing Arabic, reading the latest Morsi news, or playing human Frogger, it served another important purpose in my journey throughout Egypt. This weekend showed me that Egyptian society is not confined to political protests, men in gellabiyas, and fastidious attendance to daily prayers. Some Egyptians simply enjoy having a beer, watching Jon Stewart, and sharing stories of their exposure to vast international cultures. It was a refreshing weekend, and now I’m back in Cairo preparing for Arabic language courses throughout the summer.

Observations:

– Very few people speak fusha (pronounced fuhs-hah), or Modern Standard Arabic, here in Egypt. Back in the States, most Arabic professors stress that students must learn fusha because that’s what everyone in the region speaks. They give some credence to the fact that regional dialects exist, but if I had a nickel for every time I was reassured that “everyone understands fusha” well, I’d have a lot of nickels. Whether it’s a function of the lack of formal education among many of the city’s shopkeepers and taxi drivers, or whether it’s because I picked the Arab country with perhaps the most deviant colloquial, I’ve had a lot of difficulty using what little Arabic I brought with me. For example, in Modern Standard Arabic the word for “the price” is said to be السعر (al-sihAr) while Egyptians exclusively say بكام (al-bihKAM) to settle their bills. It’s a little frustrating knowing that a large portion of what I have already learned/will learn in future fusha classes will be of nominal value here in Cairo, but I’m hoping that the strong foundation in classical Arabic will pay dividends during future travels in the region.

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Anti-regime posters plastered on a wall in Tal3at Harb Square near Tahrir Square

– The upcoming protests on June 30th have the entire city country galvanized. Conveniently when I was up north this weekend, large pro-Morsi protests were held in the outskirts of Cairo and a crowd well over 6 figures large turned out to wave flags and recite Quranic verses. The anti-Morsi protests slated for June 30 are expected to gather well over 1 million attendees – including almost every young person I’ve met in Cairo to date. Listening to everyone complain and proclaim their grievances against the current regime is very interesting from a politically philosophical standpoint. Egypt is experiencing its first ever taste of democracy, but I’m afraid they’re not giving it time to mature in their palate. Though their claims of government incompetence and corruption appear valid, the idea of forcefully ousting a president who’s term has lasted less than one year is a bit alarming. There are ~80 million people living in Egypt, almost 40 million of which live in the Cairo metropolitan area. If a small/medium/large subset of these highly diverse millions felt entitled to overthrow the government every time the regime failed to deliver something they desired, the country would descend into chaos as it endures a perpetual revolutionary cycle. Democracy, in all its grandeur, requires patience. Democracy also means that the losing team must semi-peacefully ride the pine until their chance to compete in the next elections finally approaches. Such is what Republicans will do until 2016, and what Democrats did all throughout the 80’s and 90’s. As people ask me “do you think Morsi will step down?” I find myself unable and unwilling to answer. I personally don’t see anything short of widespread death and dispersion at the hands of Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood as suffice to call for his ouster. On the same token, I don’t think a man who has been consolidating politically power for the past 12 months is prone to relinquishing it very easily. However, I do recognize that some people are literally starving as a result of his regime’s inability to responsibly manage the provision of basic civil services. Time will tell what is to become of this great country, and I hope the best for the people of Egypt regardless of the outcome of June 30th and onward.

– On a less serious note, updated ‘Shisha Sesh’ count: 6. I think grape, melon, and peach are my favorite flavors thus far.

As usual, thanks for reading!

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